Guards Are Not Needed
Many parishioners and visitors to St. Isabel Church have been surprised to find black-shirted and flak-jacketed guards patrolling the parish grounds, in the vestibule before Mass, and prohibiting individuals from entering the church parking lot or visiting the church. These extreme security measures imposed on the parish by Bishop Frank Dewane are indeed puzzling. They should stop!
Bishop Dewane has been informed that it appears to many that he and Mrs. Khristy M. Scheer, parish business manager, have conspired in developing an agenda that promotes priest, alcohol, financial, sacramental, verbal, gender, and elder abuse. Over the last three years, many letters have been written to Bishop Dewane, to other church authorities, to newspapers, and to the Parishioners for Justice web site pointing out these problems. However, it is only since early December that the heightened 24/7 security at St. Isabel has been implemented. The guards have brusquely, and at times in bullying tones, ensured that the grounds of the parish be vacated with some people only wishing to pray being banned from the premises. In my opinion this is a bit extreme. Although Mrs. Scheer’s honesty has been questioned by many, her outbursts of temper have been shocking, and her disdain for parishioners is well-recognized, I do not believe that anyone feels she is a physical threat. Of course, when Fr. Gates was assigned to St. Isabel, he and Mrs. Scheer were a physical threat to parishioners because of their cavorting and impaired driving on church grounds. At that time, security beyond that provided by the Sanibel Police Department to protect the people, even though the police arrested Fr. Gates, may have been appropriate. Now that Fr. Gates has been promoted and sent north, perhaps additional security at his new church would be needed; but St. Isabel Church is much safer. I think the well-being of parishioners and visitors to St. Isabel is of the utmost importance, but the use of aggressive guards to protect them from Mrs. Scheer is over the top. If Bishop Dewane really thinks that Mrs. Scheer is such a grave threat to those who come to St. Isabel Church, it would seem to be more prudent for him to simply terminate her employment and issue her a “do-not-trespass” warrant. Besides providing protection from Mrs. Scheer, this would also allow the funds being dissipated on security to be redirected to charitable causes.
During this Christmas season, we admire the virtue of St. Joseph who took courageous action to provide for the safety of his family in the face of genuine threats. May Bishop Dewane draw inspriration from this model. May we rejoice in the peaceful community that is Sanibel Island.
William G. Gray